6 wild days in Uganda with Africa Adventure Safaris was the plan. My schedule included chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, a boat cruise in Queen Elizabeth National Park rewarding me with game sightings such as hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and buffalo, a tree-climbing lion safari in Bwindi Forest National Park, and gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park. It all sounds made up, right? Well the actual experience was even more amazing and bizarre then it sounds. It all started with my arrival in Kampala.
When I stepped out of the airport, I was greeted by my guide, who was also my driver. He was my contact from Africa Adventure Safaris and my friend for the next 6 days in Uganda.
As we made our way toward Kampala, I was immediately intimidated by the sheer number of people that live everywhere in Uganda. To say that the streets are packed is a hyperbole. There are some cars and trucks, but there are mostly public transportation vans and motorcycles. The public transportation vans stop in the middle of the road or wherever they like. They charge whatever they want and they are jam packed with commuters. The motorcyclists are, from what I could understand, called “boarder-boarders”. They weave in and out of traffic utilizing the side of the road, the ditch, and anywhere else they can fit a motorcycle. Sometimes they are carrying one person; sometimes they are carrying several including small children and large adults. Some women in skirts ride side saddle and some women are carrying newborns. They don’t always carry people either. I saw several stacked at least five feet high with water jugs and others with massive bags of coal. I even saw one stopped on the side of the road as the driver and the passenger tried to get a pig on the seat. I don’t know if they were successful. There are also hundreds of people walking on the road and to the side as well. The move around the traffic like bees around flowers. Just getting to the first hotel was an adventure.
The driver delivered me to my accommodations, Nexus Resort, for the night. He chatted with the front desk employee and made sure I was ok before leaving me for the night. Located just outside of Kampala’s city center in Nansana, it wasn’t as packed as downtown. My room was located in the second floor and it was peaceful and clean.
Dinner was on my own, at least it was supposed to be. I met a local lady who joined me for my meal. We talked for almost an hour and then she asked if I wanted a tour of the community. I was hesitant at first. I was in a foreign country and I didn’t even have phone service. I tried to think about the situation rationally. I would be outdoors, lots of people were around, it was daylight, and she was well known by the employees of the hotel.
I smiled and agreed.
We set out on an hour walk of the district. The side streets were bustling with people. Shops lined the road but not like anything I’ve seen before. They were family-owned homes made into businesses. They sold clothes, convenience store items, coal, food, and possibly live chickens. It didn’t seem like anyone was in any of the buildings. Everyone was outside on their porch or near the road.
Children smiled and waved at me. They seemed surprised to see me in the street and with a local but they were friendly and curious. Adults stopped to look at me. They weren’t welcoming but they weren’t intimidating either. I felt a little bit like a circus attraction, but not scared. I said hello when someone walked by me and I waved to the children.
I already felt a sense of security in Uganda. I wasn’t discouraged from entering the shops and no one hassled me when I did. I asked about walking on my own in the area and my new friend said that it was completely safe.
She explained her take on the people of Uganda.
“The people in Uganda don’t want to just take your money. They want to do something for you and get paid in return. If someone offers to carry your bag for you, they will not run off with it. They will carry it, but they expect to get paid for the service. Usually they will tell you the price before you begin.”
It seemed too good to be true but over the next few days I learned the truth about the people of Uganda, especially when we went off the road in a mud slide. I don’t want to jump too far ahead of my story though so you’ll need to wait a few days for that post.
When we arrived back at the hotel, I was grateful for my trusting nature. I quickly fell into a deep sleep imagining my wild adventures to come.
***I was able to explore Uganda thanks to the support of Africa Adventure Safaris. Without them, this trip wouldn’t have been possible. All ideas and opinions are my own as always.***